The case of Carreras v United First Partners Research concerns a disability discrimination claim made by a disabled employee against his previous employers – Mr Carreras claimed that he had been required to work long hours at the firm and that this requirement had disadvantaged him because of his disability (leading to his resignation). The Employment Tribunal rejected Mr Carreras’ claim, holding that he had relied on an inaccurate ‘PCP’ in bringing the claim (essentially that he had pleaded that the long working hours were a ‘requirement’ rather than an ‘expectation or assumption’). Mr Carreras appealed and the Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld his appeal, holding that the Tribunal’s overly-technical approach to the ‘PCP’ issue meant that it had dealt with this point more narrowly than it should have done.
The factual background of Carreras v United First Partners Research
Mr Carreras was a ‘high-flying’ analyst for United First Partners Research (“UFPR”) from 1 October 2011 to the date of his resignation on 14 February 2014. From the start of his employment Mr Carreras worked long hours and was considered to be good at what he did. From the start of his employment it was normal for Mr Carreras to work 12-13 hour days.
On 22 July 2012 Mr Carreras was hit by a car whilst riding his bicycle and suffered severe physical injuries. Despite this, he returned to work within a few weeks. UFPR was aware that Mr Carreras continued to suffer from physical symptoms of his injuries, including dizziness, fatigue, and headaches, and that he had found it difficult to concentrate and focus, particularly in the evenings. After his accident Mr Carreras initially worked no more than eight hours a day for the first six months; after this six month period he started to work approximately 10 hours a day until the start of 2013.
Mr Carreras felt that from the start of 2013 UFPR started to put pressure on him again to work later evenings (in order to cover the US markets) and that he was being forced to work “unsuitable hours”. Mr Carreras did not complain at this point that he was being asked to work late one or two nights a week and UFPR appear to have assumed that, on this basis, he was in fact willing to work late or two nights a week; Mr Carreras’ perspective was that he worked late nights without complaining as he was worried about being made redundant or not receiving his bonus.
A number of incidents also occurred in 2013 and 2014 which led to a breakdown in the working relationship between Mr Carreras and UFPR, including:
- That UFPR failed to pay Mr Carreras’ first 2013 bonus instalment payment on time in 2013 (being received two weeks late) and failed to pay him the 2013 bonus instalment due in April 2014, due to the termination of Mr Carreras’ employment
- That UFPR had given misleading answers to Mr Carreras’ solicitors with regards to questions asked that were relevant to his personal injury claim
- That on 14 February 2014 there was a heated exchange between Mr Carreras and Mr Mardel, an owner of UFPR, and that Mr Mardel raised his voice to Mr Carreras; reprimanded Mr Carreras in front of other colleagues; told Mr Carreras to apologise to his colleagues; and told Mr Carreras to leave if he did not like Mr Mardel’s behaviour
Mr Carreras verbally informed Human Resources at UFPR on 14 February 2014 that he was resigning with immediate effect, and then wrote to UFPR on 18 February 2014 to give detailed reasons as to why he had resigned (including the bonus issue, the failure to answer the questions, accurately, and the argument with Mr Mardel).
Mr Carreras subsequently brought against UFPR claims for constructive dismissal and failure to make reasonable adjustments for his disability.
The Employment Tribunal’s decision
The Employment Tribunal rejected Mr Carreras’ claims for the following reasons:
- Failure to make reasonable adjustments for his disability: the Tribunal considered that Mr Carreras had not succeeded in showing that a relevant ‘PCP’ had placed him at a disadvantage – Mr Carreras had argued that the ‘expectation’ that he would be able to work late evenings was a ‘requirement’ (or a practice); the Tribunal found that Mr Carreras had not succeeded with showing that there was any ‘requirement’ that he would work late evenings, only that there was an ‘expectation’ or ‘assumption’ that he would do so
- Constructive dismissal: the Tribunal found that Mr Carreras had not succeeded in showing that his resignation was because of the failure to pay him his bonus payments, the inaccurately-answered questions, or the argument with Mr Mardel.
Mr Carreras appealed against the Tribunal’s findings on the grounds that the conclusion that the Tribunal had come to with regards to the discrimination and constructive dismissal claims were perverse; UFPR cross-appealed on the grounds that the Tribunal had failed to deal with the issue of whether Mr Carreras’ conduct had affirmed any breaches of contract on UFPR’s part.
The decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) held that Mr Carreras’ appeals should be upheld for the following reasons:
- Failure to make reasonable adjustments for his disability: the Tribunal had approached the issue of the PCP on an overly-narrow and technical basis; what they in fact should have done was to have approached the question on a more liberal basis – the expectation or assumption that Mr Carreras would work late evenings reasonably amounted to a requirement that he would do, and thus satisfied the PCP issue. This issue was remitted to the Tribunal to consider what the nature and effect of any disadvantage the Claimant suffered by the virtue of the PCP was and, further whether any reasonable adjustments were made
- Constructive dismissal: the EAT found that the Tribunal should have considered whether Mr Carreras’ resignation was caused in whole or in part on the breaches of contract alleged by Mr Carreras; the EAT concluded that Mr Carreras’ conduct must have been caused wholly or partly by (at least) the argument with Mr Mardel on 14 February 2014 and that it was therefore causative of his resignation. The EAT concluded that Mr Carreras’ constructive dismissal case must succeed on the facts
Why is this case important?
The important element of this case is, arguably, the EAT’s conclusions on the disability discrimination point: Tribunals should not adopt an overly-narrow or -technical approach when concluding whether a Practice, Criterion or Provision applies, but must take a broad, liberal view of whether any act or omission by the employer caused the disabled employee any disadvantage by virtue of his disability.